What Can Drillers Do to Educate the Public?
Almost everybody in America takes their water for granted. They turn on the tap, and there it is. Beyond that, they may know about the water meter or, if they live in the country, they know about their well. But the source and how it gets to them are a big mystery. For the most part, this lack of knowledge is harmless, but occasionally people get manipulated by their ignorance.
A perfect example of this is the national brouhaha about hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells. The public has learned a new word, fracking, and since they know nothing about it, they are skeptical. This is a natural human reaction, but it can be countered by education. They have been led to believe that fracking pollutes groundwater. This has been proven false by both the Department of Energy and the EPA. The only known source of water pollution in water wells occurred some years ago in Wyoming. It was proven that the pollution came from improper casing design and a bad cement job, but the anti-energy lobby has run with it as though it were true, and the general public, oblivious to the world around them, believes it.
My point is this: As experienced drilling professionals, we should pass on some of our knowledge and expertise to the public. There are numerous seminars for us in the industry. I have attended many, and given many over the years, but there is very little public involvement. I think it is time the drilling industry helped the public understand one of their most important resources.
Many of us display at county fairs, and the like, and this allows us to meet many potential customers. But this venue doesn’t allow the time to go into depth. I think a better way would be to involve the youth. Organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are an ideal venue. They are interested in education and the progress of the youth of America. Speak to your local Scout masters, and see if they would allow you to give a short (one hour or so) presentation to their group. Be sure and allow enough time for questions and answers, and be prepared. These people are very often rural, and many of them live on wells, so they have a vested interest of their water supply. Heck, it might lead to a merit badge, or help you find a new helper one day!
Another ideal group would be the Boys & Girls Clubs. They usually offer after-school programs, and are always looking for new material. These kids are often urban, and have very little understanding of the source of their water. In some areas, it may be wells, but in many cities it is rivers or reservoirs. It is usually smaller towns that rely on groundwater.
A presentation should touch on the entire hydrological cycle. From evaporation from the ocean, to effluent return, it is all one cycle. Many people don’t realize that we reuse the same water over and over. If you think about it, a molecule of water that you just drank could have been run through a dinosaur millions of years ago. One of the most efficient uses of water was the space shuttle. They took only 60 gallons of water up with them and they could make it last months and months. It was captured, distilled, purified and made safe dozens of times! Probably didn’t taste “spring fresh,” but it was safe and potable. Our world hydrological cycle is the same, on a larger scale.
Construction of safe, efficient wells is another topic worth spending time on. Since many people rely on groundwater, an understanding of the drilling, completion and production methods is very illuminating. On the plus side, groundwater very often needs no treatment before use. This can’t be said of surface water, which always needs to be molested by government employees before delivery … I’ll keep my well, thank you. Treatment of groundwater usually involves hardness or minerals. A properly constructed well is almost always potable, right out of the ground. The environmental lobby has seized on wells that can produce methane. This is usually shallow, biogenic methane that naturally occurs in some areas. Being able to “light the faucet” is not proof. Many wells produce CO2 also, but since you can’t light it, nobody notices.
My point is that we can do our customers and the public a great service by helping educate them as to the source of their water. It helps them and it helps our industry, from water wells to oil and gas wells. A public understanding is a good thing.
For more Wayne Nash columns, visit www.nationaldriller.com/wayne.